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Productora Project

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Introduction

Visiting a museum is a matter of going from void to void”

Robert Smithson, Some void thoughts on museums´1967

The Project for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Lima, Peru is based on the two starting points outlined by the artist Sandra Gamarra who gave birth to the concept of the LiMAC: the museum should contain ‘classical’ orthogonal spaces and the building as a whole should disappear into the desert landscape of the outskirts of Lima. Both premises pleased us.

1. In the project for the LiMAC we combined two completely opposite museum typologies. The typology of the XIXth century museum which consists of a succession of rectangular rooms (the classical exhibition space) and the museum space of the XXth century: the white open space of the loft or gallery (the free floor plan with columns). In the central area of the LiMAC we inserted a gradient of square based volumes: on one side the space is developed as a series of columns on a free floor plan and towards the other side the exhibition hall converts into a group of square rooms divided by corridors. Hence the museum space creates an ambiguous relation between the contained exhibition ‘rooms’ and the open space that flows in between the volumes. In the first case the artistic manifestations find shelter in a clearly delimited space and in the second, they spread out into the open grid.

A perimeter of auxiliary spaces is organized in direct contact with this central exhibition space. On two sides the secondary exhibition areas are situated. One side is reserved for the activities of the museum staff: offices, the museums workshop, archives, storage, etc. On the last side a large foyer connects both entrance patios and gives access to the public spaces: cafeteria, library, auditorium, educational workshops, bookshop, etc… All these areas are illuminated and ventilated through vast green patios that are cut out of the landscape.

2. An invisible museum. Museum architecture tends to every time more expressive, daring and loud. The idea to build a museum hidden in the desert’s topography seemed like an attractive alternative. After the international impact of for example Bilbao’s Guggenheim by Mr. Gehry or the recently opened museum in Wolfsburg by Zaha Hadid, we thought of a construction without façade or silhouette: a building absorbed by the landscape, hiding a mysterious space inside, almost like an Egyptian tomb. We imagined a labyrinth space lit by patios and roof lights. From the outside the museum can only be perceived as a series of excavations or triangular surfaces breaking the existing topography: an abstract composition in the Peruvian landscape.

Since the museum has – for the moment – no specific location, it has been projected on a virtual plot along a highway entering the city. The car parking is located on the other side of the road. The museum is accessed by two underground passages which form an introduction to the museum and end up at the entrance patios (these can contain temporary installations, video projections, etc…). We conceived the whole museum as a relatively low tech structure to be able to build it with local knowledge. Almost the whole museum is organized on one level to eliminate costs for personal and freight elevators. Air-conditioning and further acclimatization is minimized by housing the museum underground where temperature and humidity level are far more balanced then in the open desert of Peru.

And finally this museum represents an ambition. Not only the wish to create a dialogue about a true centre for contemporary art in a metropolis such as Lima, but also it translates our desire to build an architecture of spatial mystery and delight. An architecture that refers to forgotten pasts, but generates new experiences. A desire to leave – like a Nazca drawing – a trace in the desert. A manifestation of contemporary culture and architecture.

Productora is an architect office based in Mexico DF


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The Dream…

The Dream of your own House by Sandra Gamarra

LiMAC is not an ideal museum, nor does it pretend to be a different museum either. Just as so many other real museums, it represents the desires of only a few. The museum makes tangible a space where the talking about, creating and exposing art have a true significance; where utopias are realized that make us believe they are necessary. The construction of a museum is always built on unsteady grounds. Maybe because one is never completely convinced of them, because the realized labour is never perfect, because we are not all there, because those who really have to be there are always absent. They are dreams projected in a limited space. LiMAC therefore is much closer to reality as one might expect because by possessing no limits, everything can fit into the museum. The lack of a museum, as if we would talk about a cemetery, is translated into the vanishing of the past, in denial of a process. Not having a place to commemorate the past generates a present that reinvents itself continually due to its impossibility to project a future. Since Lima is still incapable of accommodating the work of local artists, they still end up – as it often happens – in foreign or private collections or stored away in workshops. The past perverts itself and converts into a continuous present; the present overlaps and multiplies into a disorder of disconnected layers. LiMAC intends to organize these times, even when this means their burial in the past. The creation of a ‘real’ museum in Lima will not put an end to the fiction of the LiMAC; it will rather serve as a natural boundary, giving place to similar entities and generate a dialogue to attract even more participants.

The LiMAC – as so many other unaccomplished dreams – grows in our imagination, completes a collection, opens exhibitions and fills itself with people. The actual architectural project for the LiMAC is just another stage of this dream which fulfils the dream, creating the scenery for it.

Sandra Gamarra (2006)

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No Restrictions…

No Restrictions Applied by Ruth Estévez

If we consider the etymological root of the word ‘curator’ [curatela], we find the definition ‘the individual that is in charge of the wellbeing of minors and lunatics’. This term, applied to the of artistic curatorial practice has a different meaning, but still maintains it’s original significance since it refers to two characteristics well connected to the world of children and the paradigm of insanity: the curator has, as one of his many possible ways of action, the creation of a visible cartographic discourse, outside of any functional demands, conventional behaviours, official structures or even within an a-temporary perspective.

The LiMAC seems like the favourable place for this kind of curatorial choice. Conceived as a place outside the city, we should not understand it as an enclave that displaces our view towards the periphery. Buried into the Peruvian desert, it’s autonomy as an architectural exercise prevails above every site specific characteristic. Though it certainly might have some archaeological or anthropological influences related to pre-Hispanic pasts, the parallels are merely anecdotic. LiMAC is a museum conceived by spatial perspectives and thought of as an absolute gesture that plays with the grandeur of the landscape and it’s geographical abstractions.

Approached from a curatorial viewpoint, it’s interesting to see the white cube of the LiMAC as a platform for in situ interventions. The repetition of a same scheme, varying the scale of the cubes, provides a continuous play with the inside – outside concept. It forces to rethink the notion of the promenade architectural, or on the contrary, it finds in its labyrinth network the equation of order.

Every exposition is a map. Therefore, it does not only separates, defines and describes a particular place, emphasising it’s principal characteristics y significant points and omitting or simplifying others, but also represents the territory according to a certain method of projection. In the case of the LiMAC, the prominence of the space interconnects with the tissue of relationships; sometimes impeding, sometimes encouraging – depending on the ability of the curator – the storyline established between the projects.

The autonomous rooms inserted into the central cube don’t have to join necessarily the concept of spatial divisions required by expositions. The system of fragmenting the space in as much regions a artists or expositions, was a well functioning method during the seventies, but with the disappearance of defined movements, the heterogeneity of contemporary proposals and the ‘no- specialization’ of the artist towards the media he uses, a connecting thread for the exposition proposals became more and more necessary. If I think of the LiMAC as an active space that opens its doors to a broad variety of artistic explorations, it might the ideal scheme to establish connections. Every ‘room’, in its fragmented form, serves to create a continuous space, differentiated spatially, that connects to the other ‘rooms’ by corridors. These, however, should not be understood as open gaps, but rather as an integral part of the exhibition, providing longitudinal, transversal and diagonal visions.

With the LiMAC you could also choose to play the game of ‘curatorial power’, but in this case it is not about selecting one option above another and excluding work from the museum space. It’s about blocking the spectators view, about what is directly visible in the ‘main ring’ and what stays hidden in the ‘rooms’ of this museum. What is exposed in the open area and what remains hidden in the interiors. This could give place to micro expositions. To individualized macro expositions.

It’s a big curatorial challenge to accept this geometrical grid that initiates with a wood of columns and converts into an ensemble of independent units. However, despite the radicalism of this mathematical fractal, the rules of the game seem inexhaustible.

Obviously the LiMAC is a utopia on paper, and while it maintains itself on the edge of existence, it can not fail. This way it continues to serve as an ideological arm (the necessity of a museum of contemporary art in Lima), and at the same time it maintains it’s secret spirit, like an underground quote written in the desert.

Ruth Estévez (Bilbao. 1977) is art critic and independent curator. Her work is oriented towards the study of artistic interventions in public space. 

Comments

baptiste candillier
27.04.2012 09:43

LOL

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Talking About Space

Talking About Space. (For a Museum) by Kesten Geers

1. PRODUCTORA’s LiMAC museum talks about space. As obvious as this may sound, this is not that evident today, and far from evident in architecture. By deciding to organize the museum-space underground in a rectangular container, gradually chopped away by a set of columns with decreasing width, an important argument was made. The building is first an answer to its specific programmatic demand, and secondly a spatial type. At the same time it is important to realize what the project is NOT about. The LIMAC carefully avoids discussing about the appearance of the museum and about how the museum represents itself. Of course one might argue that this is inherent to the precise context in which the museum is incised. That context is unknown to me and I would argue that I consider it unimportant. Despite its possible response to the site, the project is developed from within. It consists of a conscious spatial typology only that deals only vaguely with the issue of its context. The LIMAC museum is designed as an underground entity. The project gives the impression of being rather dug out than implanted. Again here the emphasis is made on what is left open. The architecture becomes everything one takes away, everything one subtracts. Hence what is open, left over, becomes the crucial actor: the space of the museum. The metaphor of digging remains yet dubious. The columns seem to contradict this. The distribution of the columns reminds to the hypostyle hall filled with giant columns on a rational grid. The LIMAC museum’s principle – I would argue- shares a resemblance. Except here the size of the column changes dramatically within the project, which results in a different effect. It is this particularity that tackles ones perception: the building appears both as a dug out space and as a space that is organized according to a precise principle.


2. In the early seventies, to present a museum of space or to present the space of the museum as itself, might not have been such a revolution. The Museum – heavily influenced by the spatial principles and interests of its era’s artists – presented itself in the first place as collection of spaces organized by an intelligent set of architectonic elements. I recall that the splendid museum design of Hans Hollein in Mönchengladbach was conceived as an intricate organisation of big cubic spaces and rectangular hallways arranged through a rigid set of columns. This project preceded the discussion about the desired appearance of museum buildings. Distracted by this discussion, one can hardly grasp that the quality of the project lays in its spatial organization. The particular facade design of the building takes all the credits. PRODUCTORA understood this problem and realised that the only possible way to answer to the contemporary status quo on museum architecture was to make the architecture of the(ir) museum disappear. The architecture of the LiMAC museum is not there. It is not visible; you can only be in the architecture. The museum is again presented as a spatial organization.

3. The project presents an act between carving and constructing. In fact the best way to understand the architect’s train of thoughts and the design process is to analyze first the preliminary museum design in which different definitions of space by architectonical elements are proposed. This first variant of the project shows the definition of the spatial types and helps realizing that the second project – this project – is a further development of these. The project is merely a refinement of the different spatial sensations and organizations developed the first project. The trick introduced by the architects is to organize all the different spatial types in the size gradient. This re-organisation intends to turn the museum into an open field with different directions. It gives a concept that glides from an open space with columns into a collection of rooms. I tend to believe that even the field with the columns contains a set of rooms. Implicitly, the typology of choice is the room. Thus the design becomes a clear reaction against the museum as a recognizable icon or a logo for contemporary art. The LIMAC brings us back to the essence of the museum architecture by contemplating the different options of containment: the museum as a receptacle of art.

Kersten Geers (Gante, 1975) is architect and architecture critic. Together with David Van Severen, he runs an architectural practice ‘Office Kersten Geers David Van Severen, based on the conviction that architecture should be consciously projected from the notion of its obstruction. 

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Underground Culture

Underground Culture by Aldo Chaparro

A few months ago I was in front of the television mechanically flicking through the channels, seeing hundreds of images go by without a single one catching my eye (the speed at which I change channels is practically unbearable for the rest of my family which means I usually watch television alone). Suddenly, an image shot into my head. It took me a few seconds to recognize it: it was the pyramid. That enormous earthen mass that marked my perception of volume for ever; a National Geographic program was analyzing facts about its construction.

When I was a boy my family lived opposite a pre-Columbian pyramid that just happened to have been hemmed in by a residential area of Lima. From my window I could see that huge bulk perfectly, standing out on the opposite side of the street against the ever hazy and grey sky of Lima the horrid – as Salazar Bondy christened it. But my experience of the Huallanmarca pyramid was not only contemplative. In that great space, on its ramps, platforms and peaks, I spent my whole childhood and adolescence, witnessing many stages in my development. From the highest point, you could see the sea and the sunset. Every summer evening we would meet up in this millennial place to do what its first inhabitants, architects and builders would surely have done.

Seized by a vision very like that of Richard Dreyfuss in the movie Close Encounters of The Third Kind (where he couldn’t stop building mountains out of mashed potato or shaving foam), one day, in a not very surprising decision, I chose to devote myself to sculpture.

When PRODUCTORA showed me the LiMAC model, I felt that such a hole in my native land fitted nicely with my ‘ever-present-concern-with-primary-volume’. I immediately thought of Chan Chan, the Nazca lines, the ancient Peruvian’s sacred relationship with the earth, the work of Emilio Rodríguez Larrain, of Lika Mutal, Jorge Eduardo Eielson and Fernando de Syzlo’s feeling for the desert, the Pachamanca, archaeological digs – legal and illegal – and how for the Peruvians, the idea of something being found underground is always a sign that it is worth something.

During my years in Peru, I would always suffer watching the channels authorized to transmit contemporary knowledge because they seemed obsolete, retrograde, misinformed and provincial. It seemed to me that the traditional means of performing this legitimating function in the rest of the world, such as exhibitions, catalogues and theoretical books were treated with indifference, and in fact, the same happened with the most banal media, such as magazines, gossip and the commercial and social side that holds up any art network. This way of seeing things used to put me in a very bad mood, but with time, I’ve realized that now I also appreciate that tremendously critical and independent spirit, which, incapable of forgetting its past glories (just, perhaps, as I am incapable of forgetting the mass of mud), is not happy with ideas that might be fleeting or chauvinist.

Taking into account its condition of geographic isolation and its self-imposed distancing from Lima’s prevailing scepticism, the LiMAC project is ideal, based as it is on the axes of our Peruvian culture (as I sensed, on the Nazca lines, or Chan Chan, for example) and also articulated by the attitudes of contemporary artists such as Dan Graham and Robert Smithson. The project connects to contemporary global thinking, going from an individual to a general level, transforming the peculiarity of its local specificity into a matter of interest for everyone.

Aldo Chaparro Winder (Perú, 1965) Artist, curator, editor and art director. His artistic work has centered on sculpture, design and photography focusing on the visual relations between natural and artificial objects. 

Comments

Potato
1.03.2013 15:44

I like potatos

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